The state (fwd)

Spoon Collective spoons at
Thu Feb 23 21:35:30 MST 1995

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 23 Feb 1995 11:44:11 -0800
From: jones/bhandari <djones at>
To: marxism at jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
Subject: Re: The state

As always, I was stimulated by Louis P post, a paragraph of which I first
reproduce and then comment upon (of course with a little help from my

>. Social democrats all around the
>world are jumping on the "competitiveness" bandwagon. They all are
>pushing for higher productivity through a more skilled workforce so that
>their respective nations can beat out other nations. This is the line put
>forward by many DSA'ers in the United States. James Judis, the execrable
>journalist who writes for In These Times, has been pushing this line for
>years. This is what led him and his American co-thinkers to push for Bill
>Clinton so ardently, and this is why they pin their hopes on Robert Reich
>who is as close to a Social Democrat you're going to get in the inner
>circles of power.

Immediately I would want to point out that just as the skilling of the
labor force is recommended; through the internationalization of capital
(think of engineers in Banglore or Russia for example),  capital has
created a reserve of misery which will undermine any improvement in living
standards for the newly skilled Reichian symbolic analysts.

The following is a confusing but provocative theoretical analysis by
William Blake on  the contradictions involved in attempting to generate a
more skilled labor force:

"Marx knew and said as the productivity of labor had to be raised, the need
to educate the worker to give him wages which would take care of his
children while they were being educated, the need to read, be entertained
and so on, to reach a level compatible with his education and training,
were the marks of a highly industrialized society.  In his chapter on the
natl differences of wages, he points out that in the more productive
countries of Europe, the condition of labor was better than in some of the
less industrialized societies.  But not always.  At certain moments in the
accumulation of capital,the misery of workers actually increased; and their
lot is worse than of certain peasant countries.  The hideous society of
Victorian England, for example, marked a human situation for the workers
well below of say the contemporary peasantry of France.  Hence, there are
two aspects.  The first is that capitalism must seek to have a more skilled
and intelligent labor force, so as to obtain more surplus value by greater
productivity.  The second is, that in order to stop labor from interfering
with this increase of surplus value, it has to have a reserve of misery.

"So that , whereas on the one side, capital must raise the price of labor
power, in order to have more skilled workers to exploit more delicate
constant capital; on the other side, it must put a limit on that increase
in the value of labor power.  This tendency to misery is latent in the
capitalist system.  The tendency becomes manifest in crises. In the
advanced countries, like the United States and even new countries like
Australia, the Great Depression annulled the rise in the value of labor
power; and brought about nation-wide misery and not for a short period....

"In theory we see that [Marx] advances the idea that there is a rise in the
value of labor power to meet the needs of productivity; and also, its
corrolary, that to maintain profits out of this increased productivity, the
capitalist always requires a reserve of misery; and must always be ready to
depress the wages of those who are not yet in misery.  It is true that
Grossmann held that ultimately the need to fight off a total absence of
profits will reverse the secular trend towars a higher value for labor
power and will compel a real increase of misery, a lowering of the standard
of living of workers--unless they are prepared to fight this tendency by
every means at their disposal."
(From Wm Blake's unpublished Guide to the Study of Karl Marx, circa 1965,
an intended beginner's book which Monthly Review did not publish on the
grounds of difficulty--too bad).

Now there seems to be great confusion in this passage about whether the
value of labor-power, its price or the real wage rises.  It seems to me
that Blake is arguing that the time required to reproduce labor power must
increase so that workers can handle the more delicate constant capital
through which increases in relative surplus value are achieved.  This
requires that the worker's wage be sufficient to maintain a family in which
the reproduction costs of labor power will be onerous, given the education
and training children must obtain before entering the labor market (the
requirement of mass literacy is of course relatively novel feature of
American capitalism).

If the wage is not sufficient--if the reserve of misery forces the wage to
its bare minimum-- then worker can only re-produce the commodity of
labor-power through greater misery, if not fail to do so altogether.  About
which Lenin wrote: "We are unconditional opponents of neo-Malthusianism, of
that direction which suits some little petty-bourgeois couple who, stupid
and self-centered, whisper in panic 'If we can only keep ourselves, with
God's help, above water; but children we cannot do with...'...this does not
prevent us in the slightest from demanding the abolition of all laws which
place penalties either upon abortion or upon the circulation of medical
writings dealing with methods of preventing conceptions or similar
laws...But freedom of hygenic instruction and the protection of elementary
democratic rights of men and women is one thing.  Another thing, and a very
different thing, is the social thing of neo-Malthusianism.  The class
conscious worker will always wage the most relentless fight against the
attempts to impose this reactionary and cowardly teaching upon the most
progressive, strongest class of modern society, which is prepared to carry
through great transformations of society." Quoted in Sydney Coontz,
Population Theories and the Economic Interpretation. London, 1957:p.132

I thought that this might provoke comment.

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